Production line material handling

How to improve production line efficiency

The phrase ‘time is money’ is especially relevant in manufacturing. The more you can produce in a shorter period of time, the more money you are likely to make. Do you know where to start? Here are some tips for how to improve production line efficiency in your place of work.

Know how long it actually takes

Making changes and setting goals in a workplace all has to be based on accurate information on how things are currently being run. You can’t just pick a time out of thin air and expect your employees to get their production time down to that instantly. 

Take a few days, or even a week to look at your current production line. Look at how long it takes overall and how long it takes in each section. From that information, you have your starting point and possibly gain some initial ideas for how to improve the efficiency of your production line. The next step is to create a plan that involves input from your employees on how to reduce the time taken on certain tasks- asking the people who do it day-in day-out will highlight some issues you may not even be aware of. 

From this plan of action, you can start setting goals of reducing the production time by small amounts at a time, and evaluating the plan as you go. Do this until you’re happy with the time it takes one item to go from start to finish. 

Keep your equipment well maintained

Broken equipment won’t help you to get your items produced, at least not in the timeframe you would want. The time and money taken to fix broken equipment can play havoc on your bottom line, not to mention employee morale. 

One way to ensure that this isn’t a problem in your production line is to provide regular maintenance on all of your equipment to keep it in good, working condition. While this may seem like a hassle and potentially more money, you’ll be less likely to have multiple things breaking at once, and we all know how detrimental that can be in a business. Buying from companies who offer after care serving on their equipment as standard is a great way to reduce the costs of keeping equipment in good condition. This is because the company will have access to any parts that need replacing, and will likely be able to fix the problem much quicker through knowing how the equipment is built in the first place. 

Promote good communication between teams

Broken communication is one of the biggest problems within multi-team workplaces and can often lead to slower production times. If the necessary information isn’t passed along or not passed along clearly enough, this can lead to a back and forth with no real work being completed. 

Discuss this with the team leaders for each section, find out how they communicate with other teams, what works for them and where the issues are. There may be a specific method or set of communication regulations that you can put in place to make it more uniform and effective for everyone involved. Maybe a form could be used to pass along information so it’s all in one place, or a set amount of time that people have to respond within. Find what works for your company and your specific teams, and play to their strengths. 

Identify the problem areas

Chances are, there are areas in your production line that work better than others, and this isn’t always the fault of employees. Look at where work ‘gets stuck’ for periods of time and why this might be. For example, does getting items signed off take too long, or is one part of production more challenging than the previous tasks? This could end up with a bottleneck of uncompleted tasks just due to not having enough members of staff completing the more complex areas. 

Looking at these problem areas can give you great insight into why the production is currently running at that speed, and where you can make improvements. You might need to be prepared to buy new equipment that works better, or hire someone new (or train up a current employee) to help in the more challenging areas. 

Look at your training

Training on a production line is one of the most important, and potentially most cost effective, methods of improving production line efficiency. Between creating training to standardise workflow and safety training to reduce the amount of time workers could need off through work related injuries, you can be sure production will be much more efficient. 

Standardised training throughout will also lead to more consistent product quality being put out, and could therefore reduce the time needed for each product in quality control. Ask your staff how they work and if there are any areas they feel they need training on in order to improve, this will be a good starting point for any training. 

Organise the workplace

This goes beyond just having a general tidy up of the area. Having a well organised working space will lead to your employees being able to complete their set of tasks quicker and more easily. Have you found that members of your team spend a portion of their time looking for the right tools? Or maybe they are having to make frequent trips across the site to remove waste materials? If so, then you have just found a great place to start making changes.

With the two examples given, the changes that you could make include setting up a tool station close to the work area with only the frequently used tools, or putting bigger waste bins in place so fewer trips need to be made. 

Take a look around at your production line and manufacturing process to see where little changes can be made that cut down on production time without negatively impacting on work.

Manoeuvring around the site

Once you have the production line fully functional and optimised for time, examine how you move the product and parts around your work site. Does it take a long time for one person to move everything? Do you even need more than one person to transport goods from A to B? If so, then your workforce may not be making the best use of their time. Using electric tugs to move items is a cost and time efficient compared to other methods, such as using a forklift. Electric tugs, such as our MotorMovers, can be used by a single worker in small spaces.

For information on how our MotorMovers can help you to improve your production line, contact a member of our team.